A cliffhanger is, by definition, an ending to a series that leaves the audience in suspense. Taking over American television in the '80s, it is now a staple for drama TV - and all genres, really. It's mainly used for season finales, although some shows have made a habit of resorting to cliffhangers on a per-episode basis or, to our utmost chagrin, series finales.
Though show runners seem to love them, cliffhangers are not widely endeared among fans - especially the cliffhangers that don't work. An awesomely done cliffhanger will leave the audience eager for a Click remote control to fast forward in time and figure out what happens next, while a poor one might even discourage fans from coming back to the show at all.
So, for the purposes of this list, I'll work with 7 shows and rank their best and worst cliffhangers throughout their seasons. I'll focus on season finales, so there will be no single-episode cliffhangers here. You ready?
Moving now to its twelfth season, Supernatural has become the longest-running fantasy show in American television. With such a long history, the show is bound to have ups and downs, and that's also true for the cliffhangers. Supernatural loves its suspense and uses it frequently in a pretty solid way - after all, they've had eleven seasons to perfect it! But it wasn't always so.
The weakest - and let's face it - most clichéd cliffhanger in Supernatural has to be the Season 1 finale. For a show with such potential in all things supernatural, making the Winchesters's survival of a car crash the mystery for Season 2 seemed a bit mundane.
This is arguably a more difficult choice, so I let the best plot get the first spot here. Season 5 was all about hell versus heaven, and it all culminated with Sam (possessed by Lucifer) and his half-brother Adam (taken by Michael) locked in a cage in hell. We suffer with Dean in the aftermath, and we see him moving on with a girlfriend and a stepson, in a life where he isn't a hunter anymore. It sounded much like a series finale, until we see Sam, fresh out of hell, watching his older brother through a window. Ho-ly s**t!
Every since its season premiere aired back in 2010, Lost gifted us with some of the most memorable cliffhangers on TV. For six seasons, we followed the Oceanic 825 'survivors' having to deal with a range of perils, from a polar bear on a tropical island to the mysterious Jacob and his replacement.
A no-brainer, this one. It's gotta be the series finale. After the first season, many people guessed that the survivors were actually dead, which the producers - Calton Cuse and Damon Lindelof - vehemently denied. Turns out, fans were right and the term "to pull a Lost" became synonymous with playing the viewers for fools.
Though the hatch back in Season 1 will always be remembered, the flashbacks-turned-flash-forwards in the Season 3 finale were a true WTF moment. "We have to go back!"
Game of Thrones
Producers and creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have threaded really carefully through George R. R. Martin's masterpiece 'A Song of Ice and Fire'. Well into the back half of its sixth season, Thrones has proven time and again that cliffhangers can be both ingenious and profitable.
Not much because of the lack of suspense in the final scene, but because it sounded more like a new beginning, rather than a season finale itself. Seeing Arya board a ship and sail to Braavos didn't carry that much weight - except maybe some relief, from a Stark being safely away from Westeros.
Although Jon lying on the snow, blood coating everything, might have been a great cliffhanger, it doesn't really compare to the birth of the dragons back in Season 1. That little Drogon screeching as the camera pans out set the tone for the entire future of the series. It's like they were saying "yup, we got muth*******g dragons, biatch!" (Due to nudity issues, I'll keep it to a gif.)
Your brother is unjustly arrested and ends up in prison, so what do you do? You tattoo all the blueprints of the prison in your body and go rob something to get yourself arrested, so that you may help your brother break out - of course. I mean, come on! That's frigging great entertainment! And so it was, for the short time Prison Break lasted.
You know you're right to complain about the way a series ended when the series creator himself decides to reboot it. That Season 4 (series) finale was traumatic for many of us, to say the least. And I can't deny I'm pumped for the new installment!
Talk about a cliffhanger that makes you go "oh man, not again!" and you'll have the Season 2 finale of Prison Break. But instead of leading viewers to pull away from the series, it left us wondering what on Earth would Michael do to engineer another - this time expected - prison break? I mean, there was hardly any skin left for a new tat!
For ten years, we followed their lives like true stalkers and, for most of that time, Rachel's and Ross's unrequited, star-crossed love story became the closest thing we had to 'shipping a couple' back in the day. Though sitcoms and cliffhangers don't usually work together, the season finales of Friends did their best to keep our hopes up for that '90s power couple.
This ranks as the least favorable cliffhanger in the show, simply because we - as viewers - knew what Rachel did not, and that she would be sorely disappointed to find out Ross hadn't come home alone. There wasn't much suspense for us to deal with, but it still hurt a bit to see Rachel's heart about to break.
Without a doubt - at least for the shippers - Season 4 ended on a high note. After Rachel gives up telling Ross the truth about her feelings, it's him who actually drops the 'R' bomb in his own wedding. "I take thee, Rachel..."
The Vampire Diaries
Considering the rumors that the eighth season might be its last, The Vampire Diaries has given us some real emotional roller-coasters. From humans, to hybrids, vampires, werewolves, witches and even doppelgangers, each season has brought more mystery to Mystic Falls than any city could bear.
Maybe it's because of the loss of Elena, or maybe because it wasn't much of a cliffhanger after all, but Season 6 ended on a very grim - and sour - note.
The moment it all changed and book readers (yes, it all comes from a book series; although sometimes we forget!) had long been anticipating: enter Vamp Elena. Complete with an terribly sad comparison between the first time Stefan saved Elena and this moment, when she tells him to save Matt instead, this made for a great cliffhanger.
The Walking Dead
The show that has made fans dread the term 'cliffhanger' can't be defined by that one - sadly misleading - moment. For 6 seasons, The Walking Dead has been great at character and plot development, as well as keeping us coming back for more. They've got credit, which they're now cashing in.
Sadly, it doesn't take much explaining.
Clearly the problem with that Season 6 cliffhanger can't be faulted on the show runners, since Season 4 gave us all the goosebumps that awesome cliffhangers usually do, back at Terminus. (Be aware: The following video contains an F bomb)
So, there you have it! Cliffhangers may, sometimes, get on our nerves with all the suspense they provide, but they sure can make us eager for more!
Now it's up to you! Do you remember any other great - or weird - cliffhangers on TV?
Then be sure to share them in the comment section below!